You don’t get to be the biggest boyband in South Korean pop history without a generous and generously sized fandom. And the BTS ARMY is exactly such a fanbase, an unrivaled, highly organized group with some 40 million members that claims non-profit status in the State of California. On July 9, ARMY marked its ninth anniversary (or at least, the ninth anniversary of the day it was christened ARMY) — an occasion that’s being celebrated by no less than Google.
Last week, to coincide with the BTS ARMY’s ninth year, Google Arts & Culture Lab unveiled BTS x Street Galleries, virtual tours that see members of the band use the platform’s Street Galleries to showcase some of their favorite works of art.
Clicking in, visitors can follow J-Hope, Jimin, RM, Jin, Jung Kook, and V across 14 cities from São Paulo to Singapore, and navigate through street views that have been plastered with art they’ve personally handpicked. V’s tour of London, for instance, is dotted with paintings by Schiele and Van Gogh, while Jing Kook’s Seoul views include works by La Farge and Bisshop, alongside some of his own photography.
What are Google’s Street Galleries?
A Google experiment, Street Galleries emerged in 2020 with a collaboration with the United Nations on its 75th anniversary. The project invited audiences to build their own Street Galleries by picking a city and selecting artworks from Google Arts & Culture (which features about 2,500 museums and galleries) and the UN75 online exhibition, The Future is Unwritten. Users simply drag, drop, and place the artworks throughout their street views, adjusting the proportions to fit building facades or walkways.
Why it matters
Per Google Arts & Culture’s wider purpose, Street Galleries presents fresh ways for audiences to discover and interact with art. While doing so, the platform has been savvy with its collaborators, looping in partners from the worlds of culture as much as entertainment to boost its offerings.
BTS is one such major get, though the collaboration also does much to burnish its brand. The band has not been shy about aligning itself with the art world, notably through its Connect, BTS public art initiative, announced in 2020, that involved the installation of an Antony Gormley sculpture. More recently, RM has apparently and single-handedly been causing a flood of museum visitorship with his Instagram feed that’s been documenting his tour of US institutions. That art has been leveraged by luxury brands and personalities to build cultural cache is nothing new, but as evident, can work both ways too.
What they said
“Through creating your own Street Gallery — using photos of the band alongside artworks from Google Arts & Culture — you’ll be able to relive some of your favorite memories of the band and create your own personal story through art and technology.” — Google Arts & Culture